Saturday, 20 July 2019

Fewer Drawings, More Gimmicks

Adult humour today isn’t what it was 60 years ago.

Today, “adult” humour brings to mind a lot of sexual references and crudity. In other words, the stuff 12 year old boys sniggered at 60 years ago because it was “forbidden.” 12 year olds, the last I checked, are not adults.

60 years ago, adult humour covered a different swath but, simply, it was funny or amusing material aimed at the grown-up crowd, not kids.

The Flintstones was constantly advertised in the lead-up to its debut in 1960 as an “adult” cartoon series. Some critics complained after the first episode that the show was no more adult than Huckleberry Hound, which they all loved. No less than Joe Barbera switched gears and then explained in print that it wasn’t an adult show; that was just a publicity thing.

Huck’s name came up in a number of articles dealing with the impending arrival of the Modern Stone Age Family. Here’s one from the Arizona Daily Star of August 26, 1960. There always seems to be something that makes me sit up and think “WHAT?!” when I read some claim by Bill Hanna or Joe Barbera. In this article, it’s a note that Hanna-Barbera spent two years to cast the show. That means the two were working on The Flintstones before the Huck show debuted. I don’t buy it.

This is the second article where I’ve seen Barbera gripe about the original designs of the characters looking like something from animated commercials, which tended to be a lot more stylised. Ed Benedict once claimed Barbera hated stylised cartoons, meaning he had to tone down his designs for The Flintstones.

'Huckleberry Hound' Fans Will Flip Over 'Flintstones'
Situation Comedy Goes To Stone Age

Star Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 25—They're going back to the Stone Age to provide what many person In Hollywood think is a big step forward in television.
If that isn't confusing enough, try this: A nighttime situation comedy series of CARTOON characters.
Sophisticates that go mad over "Huckleberry Hound" will probably go berserk when they see "The Flintstones," the adult cartoon series that dawns Sept. 30 on ABC-TV (Channel 9).
The cautious middle-of-the-roaders in the vineyards here say this new concept in evening entertainment will be a smash or the biggest flop in the industry.
Hanna and Barbera Productions, which enlightened TV with "Huckleberry Hound," "Ruff 'N' Ready" [sic] and "Quick Draw McGraw," is taking the big step.
Three years ago Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, cartoon creators of "Tom and Jerry," saw movie cartooning hit a low as all the major studios were cutting back or discontinuing cartoon departments. After 20 years at MGM, the two went out on their own and became giants in what was then a dying industry.
The Emmy Award winning "Huckleberry Hound," ostensibly for kids, is a sample of their craftsmanship. The program prompted the Navy to name an island after it near the South Pole. Schools such as Ohio State used it as a homecoming theme and the fan mail included a plea from six scientists at White Sands to schedule the program later In the day so they could see it regularly.
"The Flintstones" may be the answer to the scientists' dilemma. If you don't think so, a brief conversation with Joe Barbera erases all doubts.
A suave super salesman, who looks more like the leading man type than a cartoonist, Barbera explains "The Flintstones" as a fun-provoking satire on modern life. Fred and Wilma Flintstone have the same problems that the avenge couple experiences. Their Stone Age location gives wider range to the comedy.
Fred works at a dino (dinosaur-powered crane) operator. He and his neighbor, Barney Rubble, belong to the YCMA (Young Cave Men's Assn.).
Creation of the series has taken several years, including two years to cast voices. "We had to create a set of new stars and come up with something new and began drawing characters, but they were all lukewarm. They looked like (animated) TV commercials until we put them in (Stone Age) skins.
"Take a cartoon car," Barbera said. "It's nothing, but when it's prehistoric, it has something." The Flintstone's piano will, naturally, be called a "Stoneway."
"Fred will even have an electric razor," he said. "It's a clam shell that closes over a bee. Then it starts to go buzzzzzz." Barbera held an imaginary razor to his cheek.
An example of the sight gags is a shot of Fred and Wilma on the freeway near their city of Bedrock. A car goes by with a lizard pushing it. Fred says: "Look there's one of those new cars with the engine in the back."
When Hanna and Barbera first tried to sell TV on the idea of cartoons, those in the know scoffed at the idea because cartooning had proved to be too expensive.
Barbera will agree that cartoons had gotten to the place where they were like motion pictures or live persons. Every movement was shown and it took "zillions" of drawings.
The team of H & B eliminated a lot of these superfluous drawings, substituted partial drawings and quickened the pace in scenes.
An example Barbera cited in explaining the reduction in drawings, is that of a person in a room. Instead of making a number of drawings to show the man walking into the door, there's a cut shot to the face as he walks, then a cut back to the full view showing the man at the door. The drawings showing his every movement as he crossed the room to the door are eliminated, but the fact that he gets to the door is easily and quickly conveyed.

To be honest, I prefer the Huck show over The Flintstones. Granted, the voice casting was excellent (until Bea Benedaret was let go) and some of the talking animals were really good. Dino could be funny. But the series went downhill in the third season in my estimation; I’ve gone through the reasons before on this blog so there’s no need to repeat them all. Huck and his gang were pleasantly amusing or funny most of the time. They were likeable characters; even Mr. Jinks you couldn’t hate despite picking on Pixie and Dixie. Kids knew it. Adults knew it, too. The Huck show is still adult humour as far as I’m concerned.


  1. There was also the peculiar appellation, "adult Western", in usage in this era, which I presume means one that aired in primetime, as opposed to more kid-friendly timeslots. The reference is even used in the "Droop-Along Flintstone" episode.

    This is also the umpteenth article that brings up how handsome Joe B. is. Even back then, the misconception of cartoonists as bespectacled nerds was prevalent.

  2. Suppose the Flintstones were set in the present (or the 60's)!

  3. ...or for that matter the Jetsons!

  4. Once you get past around the end of 1962, there wasn't much that Bill & Joe were putting out that could be enjoyed on two levels, with bits or reactions that kids might not get, but adults would (Jonny Quest being the exception here, of course). The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series, or whatever you want to call Wally, Touche and Lippy's show, were all geared towards morning or afternoon kids watching, and even the Season 3 episodes of "The Flintstones" are pretty straightforward, though the plots didn't aim totally for the kids audience until after Pebbles had been around for a little while and Bam Bam arrived.